Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Legacy” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,785 ratings  ·  194 reviews

The much-praised Legacy offers an exquisite psychological portrait of the Queen who defined an era, beloved and touted by readers for its stunning storytelling and intriguing take on the monarch's life. From the spectacular era that bears her name comes the mesmerizing story of Elizabeth I: her tragic childhood; her ruthless confrontations with Mary, Queen of Scots; and he

Mass Market Paperback, 647 pages
Published April 28th 1987 by Avon Books (first published 1983)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Legacy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Legacy

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,785 ratings  ·  194 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Oct 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Elizabeth Tudor
I'd give it 10 stars if I could!! AWESOME! An absolutely brilliant portrayal of Elizabeth I. The only thing I've ever seen come close to capturing Elizabeth so clearly and brilliantly is the old Masterpiece Theatre series on PBS done back in 70's or 80's with Glenda Jackson. All the charaterizations in the book are incredibly well drawn and detailed, particulary Elizabeth, Dudley and Cecil.

The author also has a wonderful way of describing the times, the scenes, the clothes, etc. The author's op
This book is the reason why I buy almost all of my books rather than borrowing from friends or the library.

I first read this book when I was in middle school. I borrowed it from the library, lost myself in the dangerous and glittering world of court intrigue and politics, and read it in a little over two sittings. It also happened to be that this was one of the last books I read before we moved to a different state. In that hectic time, I returned the book to the library almost as soon as I fin
Who doesn’t know about Elizabeth Tudor? Whether it is for her famous mother, her pirate conquests, or her many (supposed) lovers; the Virgin Queen has titillated for centuries. Susan Kay’s “Legacy” attempts to present Elizabeth from the eyes of men in her life, both romantic and political.

Susan Kay’s “Legacy” felt like two separate books (which could be argued as a lack of cohesive tact). The early chapters were much too disjointed with an overall look at events in Elizabeth’s early life (and th
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Actual rating 4.5 stars.

Well-written historical novel about Elizabeth I (why did Susan Kay write only two novels?), with some paranormal undertones.
This novel had, even before I finished reading it, the requirements for having a place in my favourite books. Now that I’ve finished, I’m glad to confirm that it is firmly placed in such a place.

I don’t know if I’ll ever read any other novel set in this time period, but in any case I have this feeling that Legacy has forever altered my expectation of Tudor historical novels—that is to say, has ruined me forever for any other such novel—because if I didn’t have great expectations about them befor
This is an amazing masterpiece of historical fiction. The dust jacket on my copy says that Susan Kay worked on this novel for fifteen years. I can say it honestly felt like she did. The history is comprehensive, the characterizations of the historical figures are vivid and realistic, the insight and motivations Kay offers for them are interesting and each character is realistic, three dimensional and matures over time.

This is not a quick and breezy beach read by any stretch of the imagination,
Legacy, for me, was historical fiction gold: a book I loved as a teenager which was just as wonderful second time around. It's a cradle-to-grave retelling of the life of Elizabeth I, and it's 647 pages of class.

The prologue introduces Elizabeth as a troubled young princess, imprisoned in the Tower of London by her sister Mary and facing possible execution as a traitor:

She sat on a low stone window-seat, wrapped in a cloak against the creeping cold and, like the solitary stone pillar that support
Rio (Lynne)
3.75 Stars. The author didn't make Elizabeth out to be the perfect heroine, like most HF authors do today, which was a positive. The story is seen through the eyes of the men in her life, letting you see all sides of Elizabeth. I simply didn't get attached to the characters or even Elizabeth (which I usually do) so I wasn't emotionally attached to this read. I am very familiar with Elizabeth's reign, so even though parts of this book didn't flow, I had no problem following. The writing style jus ...more
Rebecca Huston
A book that I was very happy to see come back into print last year. Smart, well-written account of Queen Elizabeth I from the cradle to the grave, and the various personalities, plots and achievements in her life. I think this one is my favourite of all the various fictional accounts of Elizabeth, both because of the dialog, which is very believable, the characters, whom the author does not short, and Elizabeth herself, depicted with her jealousy, temper tantrums and ability to connive intact. A ...more
Lady Em
I have no idea where the unfortunate appendage to this book's title came from, but I managed to ignore it. Anything billed as "most" anything gives me the hives, and I immediately want to prove it is the "least."

I don't care much for Elizabeth I. Perhaps my disregard comes from a long dislike of the entire Tudor dynasty, and helped along by a lot of bad movies and even worse books.

And then this book, heavy and uncomfortable to hold in my arthritic hands, begins with a scene featuring an omniscie

Coming into this book, I’d yet to read a definitive novel of Elizabeth’s life, something which seemed a bit of a mystery, as Elizabeth is one of the most well known figures of history. Having read Margaret George’s Elizabeth last year, I was impressed with the quality of writing and the vivid detail in which Elizabeth and her times were rendered, but I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit disappointed that the novel only covered the autumn and winter of Elizabeth’s life, from the 1588 armada onwards
Wow, what a book! For me this book did a remarkable job of telling the story of Queen Elizabeth's life, it was well written, intriguing and the author kept the story moving. This book is broken down into five different areas of Elizabeth's life, The Girl, The Woman, The Queen, The Goddess and The Effigy. What I took away from reading this book was: how strong and intelligent Elizabeth was, she spoke six different languages and was more intelligent than most men of her time. How Elizabeth had a t ...more
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 16th-century
Very early in life the axe hung over the head of this young girl. It was enough to give her nightmares, cause physical illnesses and forever associate being under a man's control with death.
Elizabeth wanted either war or executions. Once she secured the crown after surviving her sister's Mary's reign by the skin of her teeth, Elizabeth put the welfare of her subjects first. Like a mother, she was willing to lie, cheat and even execute (something she always hated to even think about) to secure th
This is an excellent novel by Susan Kay depicting the life of Elizabeth from early childhood, with a precarious struggle through adolescence, her sister Mary's suspicions of disloyalty, her imprisonment in the Tower through Traitor's Gate from which few, very few ever emerged from alive until finally, she reaches, against all odds, the throne of England. It's a story of survival and the emotional effects of dealing with three men that figure prominently in her life: Thomas Seymour, the Lord High ...more
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. This is probably the most intelligently written novel I've read of Elizabeth I. Meticulously researched, Kay's character version of Elizabeth is nothing short of a psychological analysis. Kay adds her own fictional elements to further allow the reader a deep dive into Elizabeth's soul, giving an imagined makeup of her persona. The Elizabeth we see in this novel is a cunning survivor, forever depending on her fierce intellect to remain alive for three reigns before finally inheriting ...more
Christy English
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of reading this novel when it came out in the 80's, and the book has stood the test of time. A beautiful novel, and a beautiful portrait of Elizabeth I. This novel is the definitive version of Elizabeth for me.
My favorite of the Elizabeth era. Another to reread.

8/27/2017 - starting another re-read :

Some quotes from the prologue :

"He was only a small rat, but bolder than most, with a disproportionately long tail which curled behind him on the stone floor, losing itself in the half-gloom of a solitary candle's light.

"The crumbs of bread and stale marchpane, which had first tempted him out into danger, were long since finished. But still he sat there furtively, listening to the rain which teemed down th
Sherry H
This book explores the life of Elizabeth I, focusing, according to the summary, on her relationships with three key men in her life (Thomas Seymour, Robert Dudley, William Cecil). Or was it Dudley, Cecil and Essex? Or was it Phillip of Spain, Dudley and James of Scotland? Let's just say that there were more than "three men whose destinies belonged to her alone."

The first third of the book, about her childhood and ascension to the throne, were very interesting. I knew how it would turn out, but s
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those obsessed with Elizabeth & the Earl of Leicester
Well-researched, very engaging look at Elizabeth I. The author took 10 years to write it and yet somehow resisted the urge to drown the reader in detailed descriptions of the era. Something I've no doubt I could not have resisted, & actually wished for more of. However, she does a remarkable job of creating a psychological portrait of Elizabeth, reconstructing pivotal events through the viewpoints of the 3 principals she focuses on: E., Robert Dudley (the Earl of L.), & William Cecil (la ...more
Rating: 3.5 stars Review to follow.

Buddy read with Jemidar, Rio, Orsolya, Tom, Lynn and Jackleen :-)

Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Lilly Flora
The best book on Elizabeth`s story, highly recommended to everyone. ...more
S.J. Kincaid
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It happened in seventh grade. I picked this book up and started reading. The first sentence was, "He was a small rat, but bolder than most, with a disproportionately long tail which curled behind him on the stone floor, losing itself in the half-gloom of a solitary candle's light." The prologue of the book went onto to focus upon the girl, Elizabeth Tudor, who is sitting in the Tower of London, waiting for the moment her sister, the queen, signs her death warrant.

This book is a page-turner, impo
Gail Amendt
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Although I have read a lot about the Tudors, most of it has been about Henry VIII and his many wives, and I have never read a book about his daughter, Elizabeth I. I knew that I wanted to read a really good book about this great queen, not just any book about her, and with all the good reviews of this novel, I thought I had found that really good book. Unfortunately this book left me feeling somewhat disappointed. It's not that it was a poorly researched piece of fluff like so many books written ...more
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Legacy is a historical fiction account of the life of Elizabeth I. From the beginnings of her parents relationship and her mother's execution, to Elizabeth's dismal childhood, and to her coronation and reign as Elizabeth I.
Legacy's intention is to portray a dimensional Elizabeth. A strong-willed and defiant personality, a passionate person, a desire to love and be loved, shrewd and resilient, savvy and intelligent.
Elizabeth's relationsh
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to read something fairly close to the truth
Highly recommended life of Elizabeth, far better than most historical fiction. I've had my copy for years and have read it countless times. It's well-researched and weaves some intriguing ideas into the story of Elizabeth's life and reign. For example, it suggests that Elizabeth deliberately put the catastrophic Darnley onto Mary's path, confident she'd fall for him and that he would prove enough of a problem to prevent Mary having time to covet Elizabeth's throne. It also suggests a solution to ...more
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you know that this book was 15 years in the making, it comes as no surprise that author Susan Kay's meticulous research paid off.

Kay presents the mercurial Elizabeth I, starting with the day of her mother's execution and ending with her death. The queen was politically shrewd, as we know from history books, but Kay presents a woman terrified of marriage because of her mother's (and stepmothers') deaths at the hands of her father -- and yet one who craves love. Her relationship with Robert D
The book helped me to understand some of the very complicated political, personal, and genealogical networks that Elizabeth I was caught up in. But I would have needed more year dates, and I still had to look up some facts that were not evident enough in the story.
This book was interesting enough, but one aspect that I strongly reject was that the degree of fictitious content was not made clear. And I don't mean dialogues or episodes concerning a certain toy. But we are dealing here with a sign
I have read many books about Elizabeth I and her reign but this surpasses them all. I can't believe I hadn't found it until now. This follows Elizabeth from childhood to her death and shows us what shaped her formidable character. I love Kay's portrayal of Elizabeth-intelligent, cunning and shrewd but flawed and secretly vulnerable. I also prefer Kay's emphasis on events-unlike some books that put such a huge emphasis on her endless marriage negotiations, Legacy includes them as just part of her ...more
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this because it has been my best friend's favorite book for as long as I can recall. I am a fan of Susan Kay's. I read Phantom years and years ago and was in love with the detail and thought put into it. This book is no less detailed and thoughtful. I am impressed with her way of taking several points of view and weaving them seamlessly together into a single narrative that is so fully fleshed out, I am unable to think of a single thing left out our missing that would make it more complet ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent--well, all in all probably the best novel of Elizabeth I've ever read, which is not precisely a ringing endorsement--but oh, man, it felt miles too long. And the dynamic between Bess and Leicester was a bit off. Splendid in bits and pieces, and Lord knows I teared up at the epilogue (shut up, they've always made me sentimental), but the rapeyness was foul and unnecessary and I have no idea what possessed Kay to go there. Still gets three stars for making me read six hundred pages plus in ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Tudor History Lovers: June 2016 - Legacy, by Susan Kay 33 77 Jun 25, 2016 01:28PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Captive Queen of Scots (Stuart Saga, #2; Mary Stuart, #2)
  • The Concubine
  • Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain (Elizabeth Trilogy, #3)
  • Plain Jane
  • King's Fool
  • The Fifth Queen
  • His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester
  • Within the Fetterlock
  • In the Shadow of Lady Jane
  • The Seventh Son
  • Her Highness, the Traitor
  • Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I (Ladies in Waiting, #3)
  • Elizabeth I
See similar books…
Susan Kay (b. 1953) is a writer.

She is most known for her book, Phantom, which expands upon the history of Erik, the character from Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, in an episodic format of seven chapters from different characters' points of view.

Susan Kay did not travel to Iran to research the novel, although she did research in person at the Paris Opera House.

Her first novel was Legacy,
“He saw the Queen and saw her for the first time with the mask of friendship removed, a figure suddenly as ruthless and terrible as ever her father had been... All their dazzling intimacy was an illusion, a mere straw in the wind, for in the last resort he was but a subject, as her mother had been.” 4 likes
“Men like Robin were never content, and men like Robin were all she would ever love, grasping, ambitious reflections of herself... He would begin to plot and scheme behind her back, building up a court faction... To emerge from that final conflict as the victor, it would be necessary to kill him. And she knew she was capable of doing it-- it was as simple as that.” 3 likes
More quotes…